Grizzly Numbers

Yellowstone Grizzly In Snow : NPS Photo : Jim PeacoOn most maps, our National Parks look like islands of green surrounded by a sea of beige and brown. Inside these islands of green, a pretty strict set of conservation rules apply. Among the biggest of these rules is that you can't kill anything (although, somehow, fishing is allowed in many parks). You can't chop a tree down for firewood, you can't pick a pretty flower to take home, and you can't shoot the animals for sport. That is great news if you are living inside the protected green walls of the park, but what happens to animals that wonder beyond that invisible line? The answer depends on what type of animal you are. If you are a Bald Eagle, you'll never be hunted (some exceptions apply). And, for the last 30 years outside of Yellowstone National Park, if you've been a Grizzly Bear, you have been safe from hunters because of the protection granted to you by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Thirty years ago when the Yellowstone area bears were added to the list, the number of Grizzlies (Ursus arctos horribilis) around the area had dwindled down to about 200. But, since then, the population has grown by about 4 to 7 percent a year and the bears now number more than 600. So, you might think that this is a time for celebration, right? I mean, here is a federal protection program that worked! The bears are back! However, some groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club are concerned that removing the Grizz from the Endangered Species List would literally mean open season on the bears. The National Wildlife Federation does support the delist. They say it's time now to spend the same amount of energy on other animals around the country that could use our help. So, who do you think is right? Either way, nobody wants to see 30 years of progress thrown out the window.

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